Martin’s Indian GP zipper drama and no penalty explained
MotoGP championship contender Jorge Martin has been lucky to escape the inaugural Indian Grand Prix without sanction after a leathers malfunction in the closing stages of the race at the Buddh circuit.
He was saved a potential black flag on a crucial weekend for the title by the series’ ever-improving rider communication system.
Martin was running second behind Marco Bezzecchi in the final laps of Sunday’s race when MotoGP’s TV cameras picked up that the zip on his leathers had come undone, an offence specifically banned by the series’ rulebook and which cost Fabio Quartararo (at the time nipping at Martin’s heels in third) a podium finish of his own back in 2021.
Quartararo was fighting for the podium at the 2021 Catalan Grand Prix when his own suit (made, like Martin’s, by Alpinestars) came undone, causing the Frenchman’s chest protector to slide out of position. Taking the most extreme course of action, he ripped out the offending item and threw it from him, only to be subsequently hit with a three-second sanction afterwards.
That incident, at the time blamed on the velcro closure at the throat of Alpinestars’ suits, led to an immediate redesign by the Italian firm to significantly increase the size and durability of the fastener, something that six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez told The Race afterwards means it’s now all but impossible to have a repeat of Quartararo’s issue.
“We have an extra closure, and I don’t know how it was possible to open,” he explained. “Alpinestars have done a very good system, with the double velcro, and mine is impossible to open. I don’t know if he opened it or forgot to close it, but he was very smart to close it again!”
But, what went wrong with the Pramac Ducati’s leathers became apparent upon closer examination of high-resolution photographs from the start of the race. Beginning without the velcro closure at the throat of his suit stuck in place, it’s apparent that the damage was done for Martin even before the lights went out, potentially as he attempted to remain cool on the red-hot grid.
At some point, though, it seems that he noticed it flapping in the 200 mph wind and managed to close it securely. But, with the velcro attachment on the top of his zipper not secured in place below the closure, it obviously allowed his suit to come undone as the race progressed even while the collar remained closed.
It forced him to eventually sit up and zip his suit all the way closed, almost costing him a place to the Yamaha rider behind in the process, but was able to avoid sanction in the process.
Quartararo’s 2021 incident directly led to a rule change afterwards, with the stewards tightening up the wording of the regulations and specifying that ‘equipment must be worn, correctly fastened, at all times during’ – a change that in theory should have meant that Martin was facing a similar penalty in Sunday’s race.
However, due to another change in the aftermath of Quartararo’s incident, Martin was able to first receive a warning from race control and promptly reacted to it, closing up his leathers and potentially saving himself some valuable championship points in the process.
“For many years we’ve had dashboard messages where race direction can send messages to riders on the bike; flag signals and information about penalties, things like that,” race director Mike Webb explained after Quartararo’s incident.
“But a couple of things have come up recently, one is at the Catalan GP we had something that has never happened before, where a rider’s equipment, leathers, wasn’t functioning correctly and we needed to tell the rider to fix it.
“In the case of a problem or fastening undone on rider equipment, or something that’s not immediately a problem but needs to be fixed, it’s a different situation.
“So we have a new signal on the dashboard, it shows ‘equipment’ on the rider dashboard and the meaning has been explained to the riders and teams: there is a problem with your equipment and you’re required to fix it immediately.
“If that means coming into the pits to fix it, OK. Or if you can fix it yourself on track, that’s also ok. What we require is that you fix it immediately, so there’s a new message about rider equipment.”